OAR 1996 - 2009
"Flynn's Flyers" were crowned Charity Queens at a gala ball in Geraldton after a fantastic effort to raise over $23,000. The team was made up of Ken Doncon, Peter Bennett, Len Morton and Ray Ness.
The time trial was won by "The Wingnuts", Bill Bell, Patricia Dicks and Robin Dicks in their Cessna 172. Second by a narrow margin was "XRFDS", Jan and Penny Ende, with Meg and Alan White flying the Cessna 180 which Jan and Penny crewed 30 years ago as an RFDS pilot and nurse.
Peter Scott and Greg Priest of Two Dogs who had raised $32,880 won the Ron Monkhouse Charity Award. This award is named in honour of a former Councilor and a member of the inaugural Mobil Outback Air Race who died suddenly some weeks before the commencement of the 1998 event.
Spirit of the Air Race was won by Jan Ende and Ken Hocking.
This was awarded to two people who had extended themselves beyond the call of duty.
The Saratoga Saracens (Barry & Judy Matulick and Keith & June Wallace) won the time trial by a narrow margin of 6 seconds from The Colin Yates.
The varied and picturesque route took entrants from the Indian Ocean through goldfields, across treeless Nullabor, along the Great Australian Bight, across Lake Eyre and the magnificent Flinders Ranges before finishing in Adelaide for the Grande Finale 'Masquerade' Ball.
Towns and communities in Hyden, Kalgoorlie, Esperance, Forrest, Ceduna, Roxby Downs, Cooper Pedy, Innamincka, Arkaroola, Broken Hill, Leigh Creek, Port Augusta, Jamestown and Adelaide welcomed the outback fliers with true Australian hospitality and all chipped in to raise funds for the Outback Air Race.
Richard Frawley of 'Team Internet' who competed in the Race in his helicopter and raised over $80,000 was crowned 'Charity Queen' and was presented with the prestigious Ron Monkhouse Memorial Fund Raising award.
The overall Race winners were Ross Scanlon and Belinda Curry of the Whitsunday Wookies in their Cessna 337A.
This year's Race included all types of aircraft from an Ultra Light jabaru, helicopter and a PC9. 28 Teams and 74 entrants all contributed to raising over $200,000.
The track headed south from Alice Spring to Oodnadatta and Maree then turning south east towards Broken Hill (to visit Pro Hart), up to Reola Station (Australia's largest sheep station) onwards to the historic inland towns of Bourke, Charleville (for a vistit by aliens), Longreach (home of Qantas) and Hughenden, before turning towards the coast for a break in the Whitsundays at Shute Harbour (Airlie Beach). A climb back over the great dividing range took us to the Undarra Lava tubes, pushing north to the inland oasis of Adels Grove. The final leg tracked due south ofr a final touch down in Mount Isa.
After two weeks of flying, fun and fundraising, the Outback Air Race 2001 finished in Mt Isa, Queensland. The winners of the time trial are Ross Scanlon and Belinda Curry of Proserpine, Queensland. The pair are Queensland's only race entrants, and also won the Outback Air Race 2000. On the final day, they were competing against the Western Australian team, the Farcarwees, of Greg Priest and Stuart Norman. Only one second in accuracy decided the winners.
The winners of the Ron Monkhouse Fundraising Award are the Pilbara Pebblemouse, Greg Weatherstone and Linton Rumble of Paraburdoo (WA). The pair raised $7000 - the total amount raised by the Outback Air Race was nearly $87 000.
The winners of the Spirit of the Air Race Award were Noel Schwarz of Ceduna and Ken Hocking of Melbourne. The pair were recognised for their willingness to perform tasks above and beyond the call of duty as well as competing in the air race and volunteering their time - their jobs included parking planes, collecting GPS, carting luggage, and many other jobs.
Competitors took off in wintry conditions from Jandakot on August 16 for the first overnight stop at Wooleen Station, in the Murchison, before heading for the huge runway at Learmonth, near Ningaloo Reef, for a two-day sojourn at Exmouth, where weather-affected stragglers caught up. The race was spearheaded by a PC-12 flown by Pilatus Australian manager Sebastian Lip.
Entrants were much encouraged throughout the event by the ministrations of Father Gerry Gannon and his vestal non-virgins, Sisters Contraption and Contraception (Gina Noblett and Di Brice), who looked on as demurely as he recited the race prayer
“Oh blessed Virgin,
You who have conceived without sin
Teach us to sin without conceiving.”
each evening. It seemed their collective entreaties didn’t impress the met gods, who were still grim-faced when the field took off for Newman. Several entrants speared off for landings at unexpected destinations including Patrick and Janelle DuBois, who thought they’d time-warped into Deliverance.
The weather had improved by the time Race aircraft reached Sandfire, a roadhouse in the middle of nowhere at which the penalty for wearing a tie is to have it cut off and hung behind the bar. Fitzroy Crossing and Halls Creek were the next stops. Race doctor Frank Kotai had his work cut out keeping a couple of our less-fit competitors in the event.
Kununurra gave everyone a chance to relax from some pretty hectic race flying as well as an occasion to make fools of themselves at the Red Faces night, where acts had the mob in stitches. Race legend Ken Hocking set a new record for fundraising audacity when he marched into the police station, holding aloft the Race Leg, and asked for a lift out to the races so he could relieve locals of some of their ill-gotten winnings. The cops obliged, and Ken filled the Leg!
The next stop was Truscott, the most northerly airfield in WA, named after World War Two ace Bluey Truscott. The field is difficult to access because the owners, who operate helicopters for offshore oil rigs, normally discourage light aircraft with huge landing fees, which were generously waived in this case.
The race finished in Broome on August 26, with top fundraisers awarded to CUNNING STUNTS, Peter Ivankovich, Bob Eldrid and Ken Grubelick. Line honours was awarded to Return of the Rats team, Stuart Norman, Chris Waldie and Ken Hocking.
The Outback Air Race again started from Alice Springs, but this time was looped north and west to conclude in Broome. Strong support for the event came from Monadelphous, a large Australian project delivery and contract maintenance organisation that operates in many remote areas.
On Monday, August 28, satellite imagery revealed only ONE cloud over the Australian continent – and that cloud was over Alice Springs! Dodging showers, the RFDS pastor blessed the fleet and we took off Northwards, to finer weather, at Barkly Homestead. The following two-day stopover at Adels Grove, an air race favourite, featured the running of the “Melbourne Cup” – a fiercely-contested and heavily-wagered affair involving hobbled humans and cane toads (we were in Queensland, after all).
After Adel’s Grove we followed the Gulf of Carpentaria to Borroloola – a remote, mostly aboriginal community – where we found that the hotel had changed hands and the outgoing management had inconveniently neglected to advise the newcomers of our booking and impending arrival. In fine Australian tradition, much improvisation took place and we all were found accommodation of some kind. The meal at the Cafe was an absolute triumph of outback hospitality.
At Cooinda, in the Kakadu National Park, many of us made the acquaintance of Pluto, a four-metre saltwater crocodile so known because he ate a dog of that name! Everyone was impressed with the breathtaking scenery and teeming birdlife. At Daly River, we were entertained by the Army Rock Band, who travelled five hours by bus from Darwin to entertain the mob.
We spent two days at the Bungle Bungles, walking in to see close up the beehive formations we’d marvelled at from the air. Drysdale River Station, memorable for a swim in the river after assurances from locals that the crocs were on holiday further north, was also the scene for the Bush Poets night, won by Don Rechichi.
Next stop was Truscott, where the accommodation was pretty basic, apart from the luxury tent – complete with double bed – brought in by Tasmanian hoteliers Peter and Susan Scollard in their Piper Seneca.
The race ended in Broome with a slap-up party at Matso’s restaurant, where overall winners Rob Mackley and Huib “Hoby” Volker turned up as a pair of skanky Kiwi slappers. Charity Queens were Chris and Kathy Littlemore, of Balranald, NSW, who had one or two moments of drama in their Jabiru when the engine decided to take a temporary rest in flight over the water near Derby.
The event, starting in Broome on August 26 and ending in Airlie Beach, Queensland, 11 days later, attracted 60 entrants in 22 aircraft – including three twins and a helicopter. It was won by an enthusiastic young crew, commercial pilots Peter and Rebekah Mayer, aided by Bek’s dad Ron, flying a Cessna 177RG.
Entrants came from as far afield as New Zealand, Tasmania, Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and various parts of WA.
Before the start, pilots and crews gathered for an Aboriginal Welcome to Country before the first plane took off about 10 am. A steady stream followed, heading for El Questro Station. At Emma Gorge, where the fairly short strip tested pilots’ skills, crews were billeted in wonderful eco-tents complete with en-suite. Most took the opportunity to trek up the gorge for a swim under a waterfall cascading hundreds of feet down from the Cockburn Range.
Aircraft took off next morning at a leisurely pace for fuel at Kununurra before heading off on the second leg to Katherine, over the border in the Northern Territory. After a fairly hot and bumpy trip we landed at Tindal Air Force base. Everyone was pretty happy to swill down that first beer when our bus delivered us to the Katherine Motel. Our hosts, Mark and Fiona, gave us a marvellous welcome and arranged a blowout fundraiser: two female and two male “strippers” wearing vast amounts of clothing to be auctioned, layer by layer! They also invited a brilliant stock auctioneer called Darryl to conduct proceedings, flogging off each bit of clothing the girls and boys removed. Only down to jocks, bras and panties, mind, though the bidding got very spirited when the girls were in their skimpies.
Next morning most of us took a boat tour of Katherine Gorge. What a great experience! Our Aboriginal guide had a wicked sense of humour and great knowledge of the history and culture of the Nitmiluk National Park, through which the Katherine River runs. The grandeur and beauty of the place made a great impression on us all. So did the coolness of the water when we finished off with a swim – and not a crocodile in sight.
The temperature was already well into the 30s when the field set off from Tindal on for the relatively short leg to Tennant Creek, on the edge of the Tanami Desert. The heat of the day had nothing on the warmth of the welcome we were given at Tennant Creek, where the Barkly Shire CEO, Jeff Sowiak, and his wife, Jeanette, had organised the local Lions and Rotary clubs to ferry us into our motel. They had also set up a great dinner and fundraiser at the Memorial Club, which is the social centre of Tennant and a terrific watering hole.
From Tennant the field headed north and east for Sweers Island, a tiny speck in the Gulf of Carpentaria which probably has more European history per square metre than anywhere in remote Australia. Tex and Lyn, who own the lease on the southern part of the island and have lived there for 22 years, made us royally welcome with a slap-up dinner and plenty of cold beer etc. Tex is something of a local historian and took us on a tour of the island the next morning, explaining Sweers’s connection to Europe and other parts of the world since Dutch explorer Abel Tasman landed there. Matthew Flinders called there in 1802 on his circumnavigation to map terra australis. The island played home to the mainland town of Burketown at one stage when malaria drove the population to seek shelter elsewhere after half of them died. Graves and memorials mark many of these early happenings.
Entrants took part in the World’s Wackiest Horse Race on the second day at Sweers. Various pilots and crew with some very dodgy form were auctioned off as horses, and bets were laid as the starters awaited the signal. The meeting was about as straight as a one-legged glockenspiel, but a good time was had by all.
A swag of aircraft headed for Karumba or Burketown on Tuesday to get fuel for planes and crew. It was a murky day with lots of smoke, but no cloud. It was great to see the mighty Pacific ahead, after the trip across Cape York Peninsula, as we descended into Cooktown, where the locals had arranged a full program.
On Tuesday night our Charity King and Queen – the crew who raised the most for the Flying Doctor – were crowned. Well done Peter and Janelle DuBois and the ugly sister, Peter Peebles, whose fundraising total was $23,000. Chris and Kathy Littlemore, the charity winners from the 2006 race, came up from Balranald, in western NSW, to hand over the crown.
Our next stop, climbing over the Great Dividing Rang, was Undara, home to a series of 140-million-year-old lava tubes This unusual destination provides just about everything you need at a watering hole, with very friendly staff and well-informed guides who showed us through the tunnels and explained their significance. Racers kicked over the traces that night at the Red Faces performance, where good taste was thrown to the winds. A huge variety of acts had everyone in stitches.
The next night saw the staging of Bush Poets, which attracted some wonderful entries ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. Winner was Lance Collins, a member of the Rats team, whose poem was considered a top-class reflection of the contest’s ideals.
Next stop Airlie Beach – the finish! The approach to Shute Harbour airport was a bit of an eye-opener to first-timers. It’s in a very narrow gap between hills and there were some interesting landings.
Our evening end-of-race party was a cracker, at Capers Restaurant in downtown Airlie Beach. Team Isis (Cessna 177RG were popular winners. Second were U2Yahoo (Mooney M20J): Gina Noblett and Neil Maxfield. Third place went to the 2006 race winners, Team Kiwi (Mooney Ovation): Rob Mackley, Huib Volker and Paula Jackson. Spirit of the Air Race award, for the team judged to have made the greatest contribution to good sportsmanship, fun and enjoyment, went to The Cockies: Greg Ball, Alan Thompson and Michael Taylor, of Wagin, WA.